Cong inches towards T-statehood

Cong inches towards  T-statehood
The Congress on Friday night appeared to be veering towards carving a separate Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh. The UPA government is likely to announce a decision soon.

Friday was a hectic day for leaders from Andhra Pradesh, who held marathon consultations with the central leadership of the Congress on the Telangana issue, which was followed by a nearly-two-hour meeting of the core group led by party chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Earlier in the day, Digvijay Singh and Ghulam Nabi Azad held separate meetings with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, his deputy Damodar Raja Narasimha and Pradesh Congress Committee chief Botsa Satyanarayana. It is learnt that the meeting with Raja Narasimha, a strong votary of separate Telangana, lasted for 90 minutes.

The chief minister made a detailed presentation about the need to pump huge funds into various sectors in the Telangana region. He is also understood to have desperately tried to convince the leaders the advantage in maintaining status quo and the benefits that would accrue for the welfare and development of the people at large.

The deputy chief minister, on the other hand, made a strong and emotional appeal to the central leaders not to stall a decision on the issue and carve out a Telangana state which would be in the overall interests of the people of both the regions.

After the core group meeting, there were indications that the Congress was toying with the idea of merging two districts — Anantpur and Kurnool — from the Rayalaseema region with the Telangana state to limit the electoral losses due to the rapid rise of the YSR Congress Party, floated by former Congress member Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy.

It is learnt that Azad had asked the chief minister, who is staunchly in favour of unified Andhra Pradesh, to limit his presentation as a decision to bifurcate had already been taken.

If the Congress decides in favour of Rayala-Telangana, as the new formation would be called, it would equally divide the 42 Lok Sabha seats between the two new entities. The Telangana region covers 17 Lok Sabha constituencies.

At the core group meeting, the leadership is learnt to have deliberated upon the implementation of the decision and involving UPA constituents in the process. Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, both key UPA constituents, are known votaries of smaller states and may not object to the decision in favour of a separate Telangana state.

The bill for a separate Telangana state, if introduced in the Lok Sabha, may also get support from Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, which strongly favours division of Uttar Pradesh into four states.

Besides Gandhi and the prime minister, the core group comprises Defence Minister A K Antony, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde. Digvijay Singh and Azad, who earlier was party in charge of Andhra Pradesh, were special invitees for the meeting.

There were indications that the decision could be announced before the monsoon session of Parliament. However, there was no immediate word on convening a meeting of the Congress Working Committee for taking a final decision.

“As I said in the afternoon, the consultation process is over. Now wait for the decision of the party and the UPA government,” said Digvijay Singh, AICC general secretary in charge of party affairs in Andhra Pradesh, after the meeting of the Congress core group.
A key challenge before the Congress leadership is to protect the interests of people from the “Seemandhra” region, which comprises Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra, who have professional interests in Hyderabad.

Leaders from Telangana want Hyderabad as their capital and are opposed to the idea of the city being converted into a Union territory. But they are not averse to sharing Hyderabad as a capital for a few years.

The run-up to Friday’s meetings saw a spate of resignations from legislators belonging to the Seemandhra region in a bid to put pressure on the Central leadership to keep the state united. 
Andhra Pradesh ministers from the Seemandhra region held a meeting in the capital which was also attended by Union Ministers M M Pallam Raju, K Chiranjeevi and J D Seelam. 
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